Obama briefed on Ferguson protests

 

President Obama was briefed by top administration officials Wednesday night as protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager turned violent in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

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Obama was briefed on the situation by Attorney General Eric Holder and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz. Obama is scheduled to receive another briefing Thursday morning.

Protesters angered over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown allegedly tossed Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas, according to multiple media reports. Two national reporters covering the developments, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, were reportedly detained by police, before being released without charges filed.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice, which has launched an investigation into Brown’s death, said he was glad to hear the reporters were OK.

“DOJ is lucky to have a gutsy reporter like [Ryan Reilly] on our beat,” department spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.  “We knew that even before tonight. Glad he and [Wesley Lowery] are ok.”

Earlier Wednesday, Schultz said the president and first lady had personally sent their condolences to the family of the Missouri teenager. 

“He believes the best way to honor the memory of Michael is through calm and reflection throughout the community and the country, as details gather on what happened last Friday,” Schultz said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the president called the killing “heartbreaking,” but said those angered should discuss the incident "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

“Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve," Obama said.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division would probe the fatal shooting, saying the incident "deserves a fulsome review."

“At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right," Holder said. "I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days.”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called on the Justice Department to expand its investigation into the Brown shooting, asking the government to look for "any pattern or practice of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department."

The lawmakers, including Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said there was "evidence of racial profiling by that department in the recent past" and that only the federal government had the resources and experience to "give this case the close scrutiny" it deserved.